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Citi Earns National Award for its Work Removing Financial Barriers to Citizenship and Expanding Financial Inclusion for Underserved Individuals and Communities

Press Release
Thursday, September 20, 2012

Citi Earns National Award for its Work Removing Financial Barriers to Citizenship and Expanding Financial Inclusion for Underserved Individuals and Communities

WASHINGTON – The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) announced Thursday that Citi is the recipient of the 2012 E Pluribus Unum Prizes’ Corporate Leadership Award for its work to help remove financial barriers to citizenship for eligible legal immigrants and economically empower underserved individuals and communities.

Citi Community Development is a key supporter of Citizenship Maryland, an initiative launched in November 2011 that offers microloans to legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship. The loans help participants pay the $680 naturalization fees while at the same time building their credit histories in the United States. The goal of the first-in-the-nation citizenship program supported by a major banking institution is to remove financial barriers to naturalization for eligible candidates while also building participants’ financial capacity.

The E Pluribus Unum Prizes program, established in 2008 by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, seeks to encourage the adoption of effective integration practices and inspire others to take on the important work of integrating immigrants and their children so they can join the mainstream of U.S. society.

Citi and the three other 2012 E Pluribus Unum Prize winners will be honored at a ceremony in Baltimore, MD, on September 24 during the annual National Immigrant Integration Conference.

Citi provided staff and funding to develop, launch and promote Citizenship Maryland, which is designed and run by CASA de Maryland. Citi has also funded a third-party evaluation of the program to assess its potential for replication in other states and communities.

Citi also is joining with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and other partners in the New York Citizenship in Schools program that was unveiled September 20. This comprehensive citizenship literacy initiative will target naturalization-eligible families through a school setting.

“Citizenship has demonstrated benefits in terms of opening new opportunities for education, jobs and increased income. And the economic empowerment of immigrants makes financial sense not just for them and their families, but for the economy as a whole,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “Nonetheless, two-thirds of all legal permanent residents living in the United States — more than eight million people — are eligible for citizenship but haven’t applied. The cost to apply is a barrier for many, so efforts such as Citizenship Maryland and Citi’s work with community partners are tremendously important.”

Providing microloans to eligible applicants, who are recruited among participants in CASA de Maryland’s citizenship and other classes as well as through outreach by AmeriCorps volunteers, is just the first step. Recipients of the six-month loans are required to participate in mandatory financial counseling based on a curriculum that focuses on financial responsibility and savings. Low-income immigrants participating in the program, who are often unbanked, build credit histories as they repay their loans. And at final payment, their $25 loan application fee is deposited into their savings account to seed and encourage future savings. To date, Citizenship Maryland has seen a 100 percent loan payment rate.

Results from Citizenship Maryland are being incorporated into a National Council of La Raza (NCLR) financial inclusion agenda that will promote policies that can provide low-income immigrants a path to healthy banking relationships. Latinos have the highest rate of poverty among every racial and ethnic group in the country, and nearly 20 percent of Hispanic households lack a basic bank account.

“Citi is committed to working with community and public partners to assist eligible, aspiring citizens in establishing both a national identity and a financial identity, which is essential to fully realizing their American dream,” said Bob Annibale, Citi global director of community development and microfinance. “Programs like Citizenship Maryland provide access to legal and financial resources that can lead to expanded education, employment and asset-building opportunities. Citi Community Development’s financial inclusion efforts aim to ensure that all families have access to appropriate financial services so they can achieve long-term financial security.”

“The economic integration of immigrants into their communities and the U.S. workforce is crucial to their success and ability to become full partners in society — and there is a major role for business to play in immigrant integration. This is why we are so delighted to highlight the important economic integration and financial inclusion work that Citi Community Development is doing,” said Michael Fix, MPI senior vice president and co-director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

The other winners of the 2012 E Pluribus Unum Prize, earning a $50,000 award, are Dearborn, MI-based ACCESS, the nation’s largest Arab American human services provider and a leading voice in building bridges between Arab immigrant and native-born communities; Building Skills Partnership, an innovative union-business alliance in California that provides on-the-job instruction to janitors and other low-wage property service workers; and Californians Together, a statewide group that has won important education reforms, including a Seal of Biliteracy that more than 10,000 graduating seniors earned on their high school diplomas last year.

Winner highlights can be found at www.integrationawards.org. For more information or to set up interviews, contact Michelle Mittelstadt at 202-266-1910, or [email protected].

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The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. Its National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy is a crossroads for policymakers, state and local agency managers, local service providers and others seeking to respond to the challenges and opportunities today’s high rates of immigration create in local communities.